Alzheimer’s and missing persons

Sgt. Sheri Tate, DRPS

Sgt. Sheri Tate, DRPSBy Sergeant Sheri Tate/Durham Regional Police Service

Whether you have an actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or you are having dementia symptoms, statistics suggest 60 per cent of those with the disease will wander and become a missing person. The statistics also suggest if the missing person is not found within the first 24 hours, they are likely to suffer harm.

In my profession, I am aware of cases where older adults with the disease have gone missing and then died as a result of not being found in time. Please consider my recommendations to help prevent an older adult from becoming a missing person.

Home prevention tactics include child safety locks, alarming doors, removing shoes and coats from the usual closet, covering or camouflaging the door, and putting a mat down by their bed so if they get up in the middle of the night, an alert is sent to the sleeping caregiver. These are just some of the suggestions I have. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Society for more information and safety tips.

Register with Medic Alert and get a bracelet. If the older person is in need of assistance and s/he is wearing the bracelet, then s/he can be returned home very quickly by calling the hotline. As well, pertinent medical information can be obtained if required.

Register the older adult with the Durham Regional Police Service Vulnerable Person Registry by going to, click on online services and then vulnerable person registry. This service is free. All you need is an email address and a current picture of the older adult who is at risk.

A final option is finding a company who provides personal Global Positioning System (GPS) products such as a shoe insert, a prime mobile device, such as a necklace or a watch, for the person to wear. For some companies, the products available also act as a two-way radio to the emergency services the company provides, which would be very beneficial in an emergency situation.

My father-in law has Alzheimer’s disease and we use all four systems (home prevention tactics, Medic Alert, the DRPS police registry, and a GPS system). Perhaps this is overkill, but just in case one system fails, there is a back-up system in place.

Life is precious, so please consider your choices and do what works best for your situation to keep your loved one safe.

Contact me for more information at 905-579-1520 ext. 5624.